The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973



Hunting ban is just the start

THE VOTE on Monday night to ban hunting with dogs outright signalled the end of any compromise on this issue. The House of Commons has voted four times since January 2001, and only once has it been deflected from its aim of a complete ban. The Government has now conceded that no "middle-way" option is possible; and the threatened use of the Parliament Act will ensure that opposition in the House of Lords will prove to be little more than a gesture of defiance. We expect that hunting with dogs will become illegal in 2004.

The arguments for and against hunting have been well rehearsed over the past six years. In the main, though, the argument has turned on cruelty, as it should. Potential damage to the rural economy, the control of vermin, the preservation of a tradition, the right of urban MP's to decide a countryside matter - all have been used. None, though, is as important as whether hunting causes unnecessary hurt to the prey, as it surely does. (Were proof of this needed, we have the findings of Lord Burn's committee, which stated in June 2000 that hunting "seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.") We hesitate to talk about a Christian position, since there are bishops, clerics and lay-people who support hunting; yet there is a consensus among Christians, as among the public, that inflicting unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature is wrong. Sport is not a necessity.

The prevention of one kind of cruelty ought not to blind us to other areas of animal welfare that need our attention. There is a strange form of animal-lover who keeps pets and campaigns for animal rights, and yet asks nothing about the pink polythene wrapped slab in the supermarket, except perhaps about the cooking instructions. However humane it attempts to be, the meat industry causes more animals to suffer than do a few roving bands of horsemen and women. An increasing number of people in this country would argue that, since meat-eating is no longer a necessity, slaughtering animals for food comes under the same heading of causing unnecessary suffering. Even those who do not go this far are dismayed at conditions in some of our overstretched slaughterhouses. Despite serious regulation and monitoring in recent years, these operations struggle at times to keep up the standards expected of them, and animals suffer as a result. The recent condemnation of Halal butchery (News, 13 June) assumed that the secular alternative was flawless. It is preferable, yes; but by no means perfect. The congratulations about the imminent end of fox-hunting ought to be tempered by the knowledge that there is still much ground to cover before we can be proud of our stewardship of the countryside and its creatures.

Editorial, Church Times - 4th July 2003

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